The Pressure Will Be On Sydney Leroux and The Bruins to Deliver on Friday Night Against Notre Dame
(All times listed are EST.)
UCLA vs Notre Dame (10:00)
UCLA, Defend! Your! Life!
The stench of the Bruins’ loss to Northwestern has hung over them since that fateful afternoon in Madison. Despite still being relatively high in the polls, cracks in the UCLA aura from that loss loom large after the Wildcats have reverted back to an above average team. But with high flying Notre Dame coming to town, Jillian Ellis’ team has a chance to show that they do deserve to be in the conversation as a national title contender. The stout Irish defense will find themselves facing a massive test in stopping the Bruins’ powerful striker, Sydney Leroux. But at the same time, the home side will have their hands full in trying to shackle the combination of Rose Augustin and Melissa Henderson, who’ve terrorized defenses all season long.
Boston University vs William & Mary (4:30 in Charlottesville, Virginia)
The opening act for the Virginia-Texas tilt is an intriguing mid-major clash between Boston University and William & Mary. BU made waves by playing Stanford hard and thumping Washington but came up empty in a crunch clash against Monmouth. They get another shot at a strong mid-major against William & Mary. The Tribe scored an impressive draw against UConn and win against Penn State to boost their profile immeasurably. If W&M can get through this weekend undefeated, they should be favored the rest of the way in the regular season.
Vanderbilt vs Wake Forest (5:00 in Blacksburg, Virginia)
Vandy came into the season with a senior laden roster and a lot of potential to move up the SEC standings while contending for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Dores have beaten who they should have and played Minnesota tough in a defeat. Now they get another chance to prove themselves against a Wake Forest team that haven’t dropped off too much despite heavy losses from last season. Freshman Rachel Nuzzolese has been one of the best in the country and could be an All-American by the time she leaves Winston-Salem. Another freshman, Aubrey Bledsoe, has been impressive in goal for the Demon Deacons and could be called upon to make a few stops on Friday afternoon as well.
Pepperdine vs UC Irvine (6:00)
Pepperdine probably could’ve added a little more meaning to this game if they hadn’t stubbed their toes against Cal State Northridge last week. Regardless, they’re still one of the better mid-majors in the West and have plenty of opportunities to improve their profile between now and Selection Monday. Part of that process is to clear out potential bubble rivals, of which UC Irvine seems a likely bet. The Anteaters showed their chops when they battled Cal to a draw on the road earlier in the year, but like the Waves, fell against lesser opposition, in the form of Seattle University. At least Irvine can count on having a chance at the Big West’s automatic bid. It’s safe to say Pepperdine probably isn’t going to snag the WCC’s.
USC vs Auburn (6:30)
The Trojans have been winning (and drawing) ugly. Very, very ugly. And given the tendencies of this squad in recent years, that’s saying something. Three goals in five matches is hardly an inspiring return, and there’s no indication of whether Ashli Sandoval, perhaps USC’s best threat in front of goal, will play. They’re going to face an Auburn side riding high on a renewed wave of confidence after last Friday’s stunning win over Florida State on the Plains. The Tigers’ Katy Frierson has been in a rich vein of form and will likely have a bullseye on her head as the Trojans try to erase the Auburn playmaker and goalscorer from the equation. A Tiger win here could show that Auburn may be set to make a run at Florida in the SEC.
Florida State vs Florida (7:00)
This heated in-state rivalry always seems to be a tight affair and has always seemed to favor the underdog. That bodes well for the home side who will be trying to erase the memory of last Friday’s stunning capitulation at Florida’s SEC brethren Auburn. How is FSU’s defense, which conceded three to the Tigers, going to cope with a Florida team with plenty of weapons to draw from, including McKenzie Barney (she of a seven match home scoring streak) and Tahnai Annis (she of countless winners and game tying goals over the past few years). This is the beginning of a murderous three match stretch for the Gators. A road win would be just the tonic to fuel them into next weekend’s showdowns in Durham.
St. Mary’s vs Long Beach State (7:00)
St. Mary’s has very quietly put together a 5-0 record, albeit one built on a lot of cupcakes. Still, there’s something to be said for the Gaels, who have pitched four clean sheets thus far. They’ll have a chance to prove they’re for real against a Long Beach State side who impressed through the first few weeks of the season but slipped against Sacramento State last week. Knocking down the hosts will be key if the Beach is to get back on track towards an at-large berth.
UNC Greensboro vs Charlotte (7:00)
This North Carolina derby also doubles as a matchup between two of the top mid-majors in America. Greensboro have already shown how tough they can be in a win against a strong Wake Forest team and a creditable draw against a hard nosed USC side. Charlotte has also been relatively impressive early on, with a good in-state rivalry win against NC State and a tough defeat against Arizona State. Both these sides should be among the favorites to win their conferences but should also be in the at-large mix if they keep winning.
Virginia vs Texas (7:00)
Texas has shaken off the disappointment of last season to start out 2010 in impressive fashion, although they have been tossed a few softballs in the opening weeks of the season. They’ll have a real test on their hands in the form of a Virginia team, who themselves, are eager to shake off a flat track bully reputation. The Cavs’ draw against Penn State suddenly looks a little less impressive with the struggles of the Nittany Lions, and the home side will want to make a statement against a formidable Texas team. Virginia has been scoring for fun against less talented opposition and figure to be a big test for Texas keeper Alexa Gaul and her defensive teammates.
Indiana vs Texas A&M (7:30)
Results haven’t exactly been encouraging in the early portions of a crunch season in the Mick Lyon era of Indiana soccer. A loss to Kentucky was the first troubling sign, while being forced to extra time by Western Michigan was equally frustrating. Being beaten comprehensively by Nebraska in Bloomington last week hurts with both sides possibly hanging around the bubble come selection time. Obviously, a win over Texas A&M or even a draw would tilt a lot of that bubble momentum back towards the Hoosiers come selection time. Then again, with the way the Hoosiers have been playing, they’ll be lucky indeed to get anything against an Aggie team who have recovered well since their opening day debacle.
Washington vs Penn State (7:30 in Portland, Oregon)
It’s crunch time for Penn State who need to stop the rot in a serious way after a fitful few weeks. The misery of last week’s losses has to be set aside as Erica Walsh’s team tries to keep from digging to deep of a hole for themselves before conference play. The deadly PSU attack on paper has fizzled in the face of inspired opposition and needs to get firing in a hurry if the Nittany Lions are to achieve any measure of success this year. Washington have had a somewhat erratic start to 2010 but will surely fancy their chances at a neutral site against an opponent whose confidence can’t be running all that high at the moment.
Baylor vs New Mexico (8:00)
Does Baylor stand a chance in Big XII play? Or are they going to crumble in the face of stiffer competition? The Bears were wiped out by Arizona State in Tempe, but that might happen to a lot of teams this season. Unfortunately, nobody else Baylor’s played really reveals much about the Bears. Some of New Mexico’s sheen was wiped away with a draw to North Texas (although the Mean Green may not be that bad), and the Lobos need another win to keep the momentum going with RPI draining opposition on the horizon.
Arizona State vs Tennessee (10:00)
It’s time for these two programs to join together reality and perception underneath the warm desert air of Tempe. Arizona State are undefeated through four matches but have yet to run into a top level team. Tennessee probably aren’t that top level team, but it’s been very difficult to judge where the Vols really rank at this point. They were crushed by UNC and Maryland but had little trouble with their other smaller opposition. An ASU win wouldn’t necessarily improve their standing all that much, but if they are who we think they are, they should win with some degree of comfort. The Vols need wins over teams with a pulse to show they aren’t just feeding on weaker teams. They’ll get their chance here.
Portland vs Rutgers (10:00)
Do YOU know why Rutgers is still receiving votes from some pollsters? The Scarlet Knights have beaten a bunch of nobodies and went down to Monmouth, who are a nice little team, but still, there’s no way on Earth Rutgers should be anywhere near the Top 25 (or 50) at this point. Clearly if they get a result at Portland against the Pilots, they’ll be worthy of being ranked and ranked rather highly at that. Easier said than done considering the Pilots have been efficient and effective thus far while maintaining a 100% record.
Stanford vs Georgia (10:00)
Georgia have been looking like Stanford in their prime over the past few weeks, scoring goals for fun. But Kansas, Utah, Georgia State, and Mercer’s best XI still couldn’t hold a candle to what the Bulldogs will run up against on Friday night in the form of the Cardinal. Georgia also shipped three goals over last weekend’s road trip to smaller in-state rivals, a worrying sign coming up against Stanford’s high powered offense. The Cardinal will be eager to impress in their debut at Cagan Stadium, but underestimating an opponent on a four match win streak and full of confidence would be a mistake.